Category Archives: Communities

Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Enrollment in Your Program

Nonprofit organizations offer wonderful programs and services to help individuals with a variety of needs often at no or low cost.  It might be surprising to learn that some nonprofits struggle filling the spots for these services.  For example, a scholarship program is unable to distribute all of their funding due to a lack of applicants; a library summer reading program has free books to give away but not enough people show up; a community launches a “promise” program to promote college savings accounts with financial matches but parents don’t enroll.

An emerging concept in the social science arena is growing that combines the research of economics and behavior science called “behavioral economics”.  Through a meeting at the Wabash County YMCA with Duke University’s Common Cents Lab, some of the Transform Consulting Group team learned more about behavioral economics to improve program outcomes.

Now we realize that most nonprofits don’t have an economist on staff that could review their programs and services to implement behavioral science principles.  Fear not.  There are some simple solutions that all nonprofits could implement on their own – without an economist on staff – to increase their uptake or enrollment in programming utilizing these simple behavioral economic principles below.

5 Behavioral Economic Principles

  1. Action-Goals – People have good intentions, but they do notPicture1 do what they intend to do. For example, families want their children to go to college and intend to put some money away in a college savings account but they never get around to it. Individuals get stuck on a now versus later mindset, and it is difficult for people to imagine long term savings when the current costs are adding up. In order to avoid the action-goals gap, avoid providing more information and help individuals take specific actions towards the program goals. If a family wants to save for college, help them set up a specific savings plan. Connect them with a bank to open a savings account and offer a small deposit to get them started. 
  2. Decision Paralysis – When given too many options, people tend to make the easiest decision, which is often no decision at all.  Some programs offer great benefits, but the application process is cumbersome and overwhelming.  When was the last time that your nonprofit reviewed all of the steps you are asking clients to complete to receive your program and service?  Perhaps there are some items or steps that you can remove or condense to make it less difficult to enroll. 
  3. Personalization – People are more likely to respond to messages or services that are tailored to them. A one size fits all motto does not tailor to everyone. Individuals have different lifestyles and needs. So a program might benefit a variety of people, but what will attract them to the program to begin with and what will help each person along the process? Personal interactions with each client will help create a clear focus of the program and how it relates to and will benefit the client. 
  4. Herding – Behavior is impacted by what others are doing. We are social people and whether or not we realize it, we are socialized based on our environments.  If we learn about a neighbor enrolling their child in a camp, then we might do it as well.  We watch and listenA team leader showing what others do and often follow. There is a convenience factor here where people are comfortable with what they know.  Is your program leveraging the “social” aspect of your programs and services with your current clients and connections? If you have a college savings account program, are the parents who are contributing sharing that message so that the parents in their network realize that others are contributing and it’s a “normal” behavior to do so?
  5. Reciprocity – People have the inherent desire to help those who have helped them in some way. We like to “pay it back”.  If your nonprofit can help an individual or a group, there is a greater chance they will return the favor. They might participate in your fundraisers, join another program within your nonprofit, volunteer, or donate money.

There are many more behavioral economics principles to consider when developing, assessing or improving a program at your nonprofit. If you want to learn about more behavioral economics, visit the Common Cents Lab resources page. Want more help in reviewing your programming and thinking about how to enhance it, we can help! Contact Transform Consulting Group today!

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Is Your Non-profit a Cooperator or a Competitor?

harvard_collaborationWith the continued growth of non-profits over the past several years (as we recently discussed in this blog article), some organizations view themselves in competition with other community organizations.  While this might not be the intention of Executive Directors or board members, often non-profits are competing for funding, clients, and even volunteers. However, a new trend is starting to emerge where non-profits are cooperating in partnership and not competing.

Our office is doing a book club, and the current book that we are reading is Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant. In their research of exemplary non-profits across the nation, they identified six effective practices identified in all twelve high-performing non-profits.  One of the six effective practices identified is the importance of nurturing the non-profit networks.

All twelve exemplary organizations were not just focused on making their non-profit the best, but  working to build formal and informal non-profit networks to advance their mission and cause.  Some might think that this is contrary to what makes a high-performing non-profit (to focus externally instead of internally).

Benefits of Cultivating Non-profit Networks

  • Greater ability to impact social change
  • Increased workforce of allies with shared knowledge and skills
  • Expansion of funding opportunities through partnerships
  • Unified force working toward common goals
  • Extended support outside your organization
  • Increased public awareness

Are you interested in developing a non-profit network? Crutchfield and McLeod outline four strategies to nurture this network:

  1. Grow the pieFunders are very interested and supportive of joint partnerships for programming and services. Focus on expanding funding for the greater cause over your individual organization in order to achieve greater impact for the cause. This can be done through joint grant applications, redistributing funds to other organizations, or partnering with other non-profits in their fundraising efforts.  High-impact non-profits will often serve as the “backbone” fiscal support for the network.Team Unity Friends Meeting Partnership Concept
  2. Share knowledge – Consider other non-profits as allies and share your expertise, research, etc. to strengthen the system. In looking toward a collective impact model, having a network that is consistent with related knowledge only helps further the cause.
  3. Develop leadership – Often non-profits have one leader that holds all of the knowledge, including historical knowledge of trends and partnerships. It is essential to cultivate the leadership of the next generation across the network. Again, this strengthens the cause by increasing the capabilities of the workforce.
  4. Work in coalitions – Often the causes that non-profits are working to address are complex and multi-faceted. Once a non-profit network is established, the next step is to broaden the network. It takes a unified community to make change happen and to sustain its impact.

There is no question that leading a non-profit organization is a challenge, and the concept of developing a network of non-profits might seem too hard to conceptualize. Building a strong network of non-profits to collaborate with is a great strategy to expand the social impact of your cause. Looking to other non-profits as allies in the overarching goal of improving the community and offering your strengths to them will create a unified, cohesive network that together can mobilize the entire community and sustain a greater impact.

At Transform Consulting Group, we work with many non-profits on program development, which often includes an emphasis on cultivating partnerships with local organizations. If you are interested in learning more about cultivating partnerships and the collective impact model, contact us today for a free consultation!


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Transformational Organization Spotlight: College Success Coalition


CollegesuccssThe College Success Coalition (CSC), is a network of organizations powered by the American Student Achievement Institute that combine to improve student performance across the state of Indiana. This statewide network implements activities that are designed to prepare young people to take the necessary steps for college entrance and success. Within only the first three years of this program, seventy-two counties joined the CSC. The remaining twenty counties are expected to join by the end of 2015.

The two main goals of CSC are to:

  • increase percentage of students who enter college the Fall after high-school graduation; and
  • increase percentage of students who earn a college degree within the first four years of postsecondary schooling.

Member organizations of the CSC includes local governments, schools, businesses, community foundations, libraries, service clubs, and many more. These members implement local activities designed to encourage students to seriously consider postsecondary education and encourage achievement in the classroom. Hosting college preparatory activities in high schools and printing scholarship notifications in the local newspaper are some examples. College prep activities could include scholarship searches, watching college readiness videos, understanding how to use the College Cost Estimator, among many more. Each county has a leadership team that will help local organizations form these activities and use statistics to discuss the community impact.

Membership to the CSC is open to any community organization that has an interest in the county’s educational well-being. The application for organizations is a short five pages. If an organization’s county does not currently have a CSC program, it is possible to start one through the online coalition application. For more information, visit the website or contact Debbie Howell at 812-349-4142.

At Transform Consulting Group, we support youth development, improvement, and programs that aim to create young leaders. The College Success Coalition is a great example of such a program, and many of our clients are involved similar causes. Call us at (317) 324-4070 or visit our website to learn more!



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New Tool to Measure Social Impact



The Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) has developed a new tool to measure the impact of public programs. The Social Impact Calculator is a first-of-its-kind, free, tool that attempts to assign a dollar value to publicly funded programs. The Social Impact Calculator is designed to make it easy for organizations to place a monetary value on their own social projects.

The Social Impact Calculator estimates the social impact of investments in dollars by allowing the user to input their own project data. It will then calculate the monetized impact value of the project. Users can input multiple projects as well as download results to Excel.

The Social Impact Calculator provides the methodology behind each calculation, allowing organizations to see an explanation of each category. Feedback and sharing is encouraged to ensure the calculator stays relevant to the needs of organizations.

Does your organization have a plan in place to assess the value of impact in your community? Transform Consulting Group is committed to offering evidence-based solutions that are practical and cost effective to achieve your desired results. Contact us today get started!



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President Obama Launches Second Promise Zone Competition


promise zones imageIn President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, he declared 20 areas nationwide would be designated as Promise Zones. The Administration recently announced that a second round of Promise Zone designations are open for solicitation. Promise Zones can be urban, rural, or tribal communities. In a Promise Zone, the Administration partners with local leaders to create jobs, increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, and reduce violent crime. Communities are invited to compete for federal funds, staffing, and five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members to help recruit and manage volunteers.

The Promise Zone program focuses on areas that have struggled even as the economy recovers and unemployment falls. Twelve federal agencies, including Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA), will work in collaboration to provide resources and expertise to help stimulate the local economy and provide opportunities within these communities. For a full list of benefits click here.Any community meeting the Promise Zone eligibility requirements may apply.

  • Nonprofits
  • Public Housing Agencies
  • Local Education Agencies
  • Metropolitan Planning Organizations
  • Community Colleges
The deadline for submitting Promise Zone applications is November 21, 2014. Applications must be submitted through Max Survey. Separate application guides are available for urban and rural/tribal areas.Is your organization interested in applying for federal funding but unsure of where to start? Transform Consulting Group has experience helping numerous organizations successfully apply for federal funds, including Indianapolis’s own Martindale Brightwood community on becoming a Promise Neighborhood. Contact us today for a free consultation!



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National Hispanic Heritage Month


Hispanic Heritage Month blog-picAt more than 53 million, the Hispanic population is the nation’s largest, youngest, and fastest growing minority population. One out of four public school students in the nation is Hispanic, however, less than 8 percent of U.S. teachers are Hispanic, and Hispanic male teachers represent only 2% of the nation’s teachers.

While many Hispanic teachers have dedicated themselves to serving their communities through teaching, they are dramatically underrepresented in the classroom. Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th through October 15th) recognizes these leaders.

As the Hispanic population continues to grow, it is essential that all Hispanic students have access to a high-quality education. This begins with teachers. According to a 2003 Economic Policy Institute study, the quality of a student’s teacher is the single most influential in-school factor in academic achievement and future life outcomes[1]. It is important to have a teaching workforce that reflects the current student population. Teachers of color serve as role models and cultural liaisons for their students.

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and the U.S. Department of Education are engaged in recognizing Hispanic educators throughout the country to highlight the impact they are having in our nation’s schools. Additionally, Hispanic Teacher Recruitment programs have been started by school districts and universities to increase minority teacher candidates.

Hispanics are graduating high school and enrolling in college at higher rates, yet only 15 percent of Hispanic adults hold a bachelor’s degree. As a result, the Initiative has created the ¡Gradúate! Financial Aid Guide to Success to help Hispanic students and families navigate the college application process. ¡Gradúate! highlights the following:

ü  Planning for College

ü  Choosing the Right College

ü  FAFSA 101

ü  Financial Aid

ü  Scholarships

ü  Financial Resources for Undocumented Students

ü  Completing College

ü  Career Pathways

Transform Consulting Group has worked with La Plaza of Indianapolis to prepare more Hispanic students to enroll in and complete post-secondary education. Through this partnership, Transform Consulting Group created a customized college and career readiness curriculum for La Plaza’s Tu Futuro program to improve high school graduation rates, post-secondary enrollment, and completion rates. Contact us today for more information on assisting your college and career readiness program!

[1] Rice, J.K. (2003). Teacher Quality Understanding the Effectiveness of Teacher Attributes. Annapolis: Economic Policy Institute.



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Best Practice Spotlight: Trauma Informed Community Building

Communities across the country are working to revitalize low-income and public housing. Trauma Informed Community Building (TICB) is a new framework for strengthening communities in trauma-affected neighborhoods. It recognizes the ongoing stress and trauma pervasive in communities facing poverty, ongoing violence, isolation, and limited resources.

TICB strategies attempt to de-escalate chaos and stress, build social cohesion, and foster community resiliency over time by acknowledging and validating the real life experiences of low-income and public housing residents. The TICB model addresses the disconnect between meeting the needs of residents in high-poverty neighborhoods and traditional community building programs that leave members feeling isolated and marginalized.slide potrero2 Through a partnership with the residents of Potrero Terrace and Annex—one of San Francisco’s largest and most distressed public housing communities—and the Health Equity Institute at San Francisco State University, BRIDGE Housing Corporation has developed a model for community building that starts with community healing as an integral part of neighborhood revitalization.
Five years of experience with community building and re-development work in the “Potrero” community allowed BRIDGE’s project team to identify key objectives that support using a TICB framework to guide neighborhood revitalization initiatives, including:

  • Community building needs to be asset-based
  • Leverage resources that are already in the community
  • Increase the capacity of residents to improve their quality of life and effect positive change

Transform Consulting Group understands that community transformation starts equipping and empowering residents to identify their community assets and develop plans for improvement. Transform Consulting Group has worked with the Martindale Brightwood community in Indianapolis on developing a Promise Neighborhood—turning a neighborhood of concentrated poverty into a neighborhood of opportunity. Contact us today to learn how your organization can apply the latest research to improve lasting transformation.



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Girls on the Run Empowerment Project Event



Where do Empowerment, Encouragement and Inspiration mingle?  At Girls on the Run’s The Empowerment Project of course!

This October, you’re invited to join Girls on the Run of Central Indiana for the screening of this powerful documentary depicting the incredible journey of five female filmmakers as they journey across America interviewing ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. The Empowerment Project celebrates strong, inspiring women in leadership roles all across the U.S.

Details for the event include:The Empowerment Project Image

  • Where – Latitude 360 (formerly known as Latitude 39)
  • When – Thursday, October 9th (VIP entry begins at 5:30 PM, general admission entry begins at 6:15 PM)
  • Why – To raise funds for the Girls on the Run scholarship fund

Tickets for this event are on sale online, or by calling 859-396-5612.  To register in your area, go to here.

Girls on the Run of Central Indiana strives to create a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. Proceeds from the evening will benefit the Girls on the Run scholarship fund, which ensures no girl is turned away from our program based on her financial status. Join us as we empower girls to be leaders of their own destiny.

At Transform Consulting Group, we work with many organizations to help organize special events. Does your organization need help executing your next project or event? If so contact us today!



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W.K. Kellogg Foundation Prioritizes Family Engagement in Student Achievement


WK-Kellog-FoundationThe W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) is partnering with the White House to discuss transformative family engagement as a major contributor to a child’s school readiness and success. Transformative family engagement is a shared responsibility of families, schools, and communities aimed at helping students learn and achieve. The White House recently held a first-of-its-kind Symposium on Transformative Family Engagement convening philanthropic, research, and federal partners for a dialogue on opportunities and pathways for empowering parents as leaders and key decision makers in education.

WKKF’s Vice-President for Program Strategy Carla Thompson says, “Parents and caregivers are the strongest voices for their children and deserve a say in the decisions that affect their success.” In April 2014, the Kellogg Foundation announced the recipients of a $13.7 million investment to empower parents as leaders and key decision makers. Thirty organizations were selected to use these funds to develop and implement transformative family engagement programs in the field of early childhood education.

The White House Symposium on Transformative Family Engagement coincided with the recent release of a public opinion poll, commissioned by the Kellogg Foundation, of 1,000 parents nationwide. The poll found that 96% of parents believe they play a role in ensuring their child has a quality education, but that teachers (73%), principals (58%), and local officials (46%) also have meaningful roles. Other findings from the poll include:

  • Forty-two percent of parents believe that involvement in their child’s education is most critical between birth and pre-school.
  • The majority of parents (82%) say they are actively involved in their children’s education. However, ten percent of all parents say that they do not feel welcome to participate.
  • Forty-six percent of parents report that lack of time is an obstacle preventing them from fully engaging in their child’s education.
  • One in five parents report that a lack of understanding of what their child is learning is also a significant barrier to involvement.

Transform Consulting Group recognizes the importance of family engagement in student learning and building strong school-community-family partnerships. Contact us today to help your organization or school align with the latest research and best practices for children and families. 



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Celebrate Nonprofits on World NGO Day


World NGO DayFebruary 27th is World NGO Day, a day for all Non-Government Organizations (including nonprofits) worldwide to share their initiatives and experiences with others. This is a day to celebrate and recognize the contribution, support and vital work all local, regional and international nonprofit organizations do all day, every day, year round.  How can you celebrate an organization and its board, staff, volunteers and supporters?

  • Send a free NGO Day ecard to colleagues or friends!
  • Host a fun dinner party or “friend-raiser” to raise awareness and funds for your organization!
  • Share your message of appreciation with the community online, via social media or in print!

Here are some examples for greetings one can use:

  • “A Happy NGO Day! You are the best organization in the World. Thank you!”
  • “Let’s celebrate World NGO Day together!”
  • “Let’s honor all the NGO founders, volunteers, heroes and heroines around the world!”
  • “Our best wishes from all us! Happy and peaceful World NGO Day!”

Meant as more than just one day of celebration and commemoration, World NGO Day is also intended to provide a platform for NGOs to collaborate.  World NGO Day helps to break down geographical barriers to connect organizations that could help each other learn and grow, regardless of size, mission or location.  As part of this collaborative, the organization provides a worldwide NGO event and opportunities boards.

Transform Consulting Group celebrates all the NGOs doing important work in our community.  Do you know how well your organization is impacting your cause?  Transform Consulting Group can help you measure your outcomes.  Start measuring today!



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